The casual Game of Thrones fan knows Jon Snow as the closest thing this unforgiving world has to a paragon of virtue, a young man who always knows the right thing to do and perpetually tries to do it — no matter how high the personal cost.
But the actor portraying the eventual King in the North did not share that certainty for most of the show’s run; in fact, he pretty much never felt like he knew what was right.
Kit Harington finally reveals how being front and center on HBO‘s record-breaking megahit affected him — and we don’t mean his bank account.
First off, the show hasn’t just been a job; it’s been his life for over eight years. He met his wife, onscreen love interest Rose Leslie, filming season two.
And even while he wasn’t on set, he carried a part of it with him. Specifically, the part where he LOOKED EXACTLY LIKE JON SNOW ALL THE TIME.
He wasn’t allowed to deviate from the hair length and style, body shape, anything while the show was ongoing, and so the distinct look became Kit’s as well for all those years. He told Variety:
“A huge part of my 20s are me with that look. My wedding pictures are me with that look. For a long time toward the end of ‘Thrones,’ I felt like I wanted to be a new person but I was stuck in this shape.”
On his last day of filming, things finally felt like they changed:
“I took off the costume, and it felt like my skin was being peeled away. I was very emotional. It felt like someone was shedding me of something.”
But the real effect on Kit was inside.
See, he’s an incredibly introspective guy who never really lets himself off the hook for times he doesn’t think he nailed it.
“Looking back at the entirety of ‘Thrones,’ there’ll be 70% of the scenes that I’ll just never be happy with. I’ve come to terms with that.”
Happily, he teases, that felt different in the final season:
“I know who this is now, and I’m at peace with who this is. I just got a feeling that it’s the most satisfied I will be with my work as Jon Snow.”
Of course, during those early seasons reading reviews only exacerbated the problem. Apparently they often pointed to his stoic, melancholy hero as a weak spot in the otherwise flashy cast?
“My memory is always ‘the boring Jon Snow.’ And that got to me after a while, because I was like, ‘I love him. He’s mine and I love playing him.’ Some of those words that were said about it stuck in my craw about him being less entertaining, less showy.”
Aw, come on, he’s not “boring.”
It was a challenge he shared with Emilia Clarke, AKA Daenerys Targaryen, who was playing a fledgling ruler who often had to hide her emotions from her subjects.
“We’re the two young female and male leads, and there’s going to be more pressure on those parts. They’re not your Joffreys; they’re not so showy. And there was a sort of feeling in me, in the middle of when the show was going on: ‘I’d love some sort of character thing.’”
Be careful what you wish for.
His big “character thing” was getting betrayed by his own men in the Night’s Watch and being forced to literally see the abyss of death and come back haunted by that knowledge.
And it ended up causing some problems for Kit:
“My darkest period was when the show seemed to become so much about Jon, when he died and came back. I really didn’t like the focus of the whole show coming onto Jon — even though it was invalidating my problem about being the weak link because things were about Jon.”
The biggest issue with it? The death was at the end of the season five finale, and the resurrection came AFTER the new season premiere.
Many suspected the death was a fakeout somehow, and he’d survive being stabbed in the heart… somehow…
The sudden scrutiny was too much to handle.
“When you become the cliffhanger of a TV show, and a TV show probably at the height of its power, the focus on you is f**king terrifying.
You get people shouting at you on the street, ‘Are you dead?’ At the same time you have to have this appearance. All of your neuroses — and I’m as neurotic as any actor — get heightened with that level of focus.”
He isn’t exaggerating the neurosis. Despite being on TV’s biggest hit (sorry, not TV, HBO’s biggest hit), he couldn’t enjoy himself at all.
The crossing into a new level of fame was jarring:
“It wasn’t a very good time in my life. I felt I had to feel that I was the most fortunate person in the world, when actually, I felt very vulnerable. I had a shaky time in my life around there — like I think a lot of people do in their 20s. That was a time when I started therapy, and started talking to people. I had felt very unsafe, and I wasn’t talking to anyone. I had to feel very grateful for what I have, but I felt incredibly concerned about whether I could even f**king act.”
And it helped!
By the time season six had finished airing, he had a new take on his part in the series (his Emmy-nominated part!):
“I now look back and I go, well, I was a f**king integral part of that whole thing. Jon was, and I am, and I’m proud of it. It took me a long time to not think, I’m the worst thing in this.”
We’re so glad he found therapy, and that it made a difference.
And we’re grateful to him for opening up about it now.
Kit’s onscreen sister Sophie Turner has long been a vocal advocate of normalizing mental health issues.
And rightfully so — after all, you wouldn’t be ashamed of getting the flu or breaking your leg, so ashamed you wouldn’t seek treatment. Mental health is HEALTH. It’s important we all talk about it as such.
So thank you for doing the right thing, Kit, even at personal cost.
Oh hey, he really IS Jon Snow!
See the sexy star offer more insights on the end of Game of Thrones (below):
[Image via WENN/HBO/YouTube.]
If you enjoyed our content, we'd really appreciate some "love" with a share or two.
And ... Don't forget to have fun!